Ernie Zuniga grew up in Calexico, just a few minutes away from SDSU’s Imperial Valley campus. He completed his lower division coursework at Imperial Valley College before transferring to SDSU’s Imperial Valley campus, where he received his undergraduate degree in psychology. Ernie knew that he wanted to work with people since he was in high school. He was drawn to social work through his employment at the Calexico Neighborhood House, a grassroots organization where he worked during his time at Imperial Valley College. In 2001, he was accepted into the three year MSW program at SDSU. His first day of graduate school was on September 11th, 2001. Class was cancelled that day, and Ernie remembers thinking about the growing need for social workers and social services. He knew he was on the right track. His favorite class was the field seminar in conjunction with the field placement, and he says that the best part was applying his classroom knowledge in the field.
While attending classes part time, he also worked full time at the San Diego Regional Center, which serves individuals with developmental disabilities. Currently, he works as the MSW site coordinator and field faculty at SDSU’s Imperial Valley campus, where he establishes relationships and contracts between the Imperial Valley campus and the community. There are currently twenty active agencies that he works with, and he presents at agencies and campuses in the area. He says that he loves academia, but also enjoys client contact, which he experiences through his second job at Accentcare Home Health in Imperial Valley.
Ernie was the recipient of the Outstanding Part Time Faculty Award for 2014-2015 from the Imperial Valley Associated Students. He says that the most rewarding moments in his practice thus far have been students and clients who contact him and tell him that he has made a difference in their lives. The biggest challenge for Ernie has been juggling his time between his two jobs, but hearing that he is helping others makes it all worth it. His goals for the future include getting licensed as a social worker. He is currently an ASW but hopes to receive his LCSW. Ernie is very grateful to the social work faculty and staff, who have been very student centered. He utilizes skills that were handed down to him by mentors and professors. He is grateful to be an alumnus of SDSU, and to have come full circle to be hired to train and prepare students for their careers as future social workers.
Written by Kelly Reilly
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